FAFSA, How to apply for student financial aid?

The FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is set to go live by Dec. 31, a few months later than its usual October launch. The delay is aimed at improving the application process, as per the US Department of Education. Millions of students use the opportunity each year to determine their financial aid for the upcoming school year, covering federal loans, grants, work-study funds, and other aid types. The delay is attributed to changes mandated by the FAFSA, Simplification Act, enacted in December 2020.

The FAFSA application has been revamped to simplify the process. Notably, an interface between FAFSA and the IRS now facilitates automatic data transfer, reducing the number of questions and minimizing errors during application. Contributors, such as parents or spouses, will have their own set of questions to answer, streamlining the experience for those not always together.

Other changes include the ability for parents without a Social Security number to participate in their student’s FAFSA, an increased limit of 20 schools that students can add to their FAFSA (up from 10), and changes to the treatment of family members in college as a factor in financial aid eligibility.

Additionally, there are modifications to eligibility criteria for federal Pell Grants, with about 610,000 more students from low-income backgrounds expected to qualify. Pell Grant recipients will receive more aid, and approximately 1.5 million more students will get the maximum grant. Eligibility is tied to family size and the federal poverty level.

It’s emphasized that even if a student doesn’t qualify for a Pell Grant, completing the FAFSA is crucial. Colleges and universities use the data provided to determine eligibility for other scholarships and federal loans, which include subsidized loans (need-based) and unsubsidized loans (available to all, regardless of financial need).

In summary, the application process has undergone significant improvements to enhance accessibility and accuracy. Students are encouraged to fill out the form, as it serves as a gateway to various funding sources for college expenses.

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